Both the Fall soccer season and Fall/Winter karate session started up a few weeks ago. This will be the first time I have coached and helped teach karate simultaneously. Needless to say I have been very busy. And though the teaching methods are a little different in the beginning, the goals of each for working with children are very similar, including teaching responsibility, decision-making skills and discipline to name a few.
In karate, there is not much room for creativity, other than in sparring. In soccer there is actually a lot, but up until recently it hasn't really been promoted at the children's level. There is usually a lot of drilling and a sort of submission to the coach. You can see this difference in soccer styles by watching Major League Soccer games vs. La Liga or Série A. You can also see which is more successful.
As most of you know, Martial Arts students begin to learn by mimicry while the teacher(s) demonstrate, correct, fine tune and answer questions. At first there is not much room for creativity, but that is by design for reasons of safety and to make the fundamentals easier to learn for the students. I love both. For children the goals are similar but for adults they are very different, self-defense versus playing a game at a high level. Still, working with the kids is pretty rewarding
I coach under-12 boys in a "house league" that follows the coaching guidelines set by the Virginia Youth Soccer Association and US Youth Soccer. The league is competitive but the overriding goal is to foster and instill an enjoyment of the game so that the children will hopefully continue to play recreationally, professionally if they are very good and very lucky, into their 30s and 40s. I'm not sure how that's tracked but it's a great goal. Do I need to keep tabs on them...? :-) This is a similar goal in martial arts though I have never seen it written anywhere. Karate is a lifetime pursuit. By making it fun and interesting for the kids, you hope they will continue on when they get older as well. This is the tough part, especially when there is not any wiggle room for 'play'.
In our soccer coaching certification sessions we were encouraged to have the boys at this level play 'games, not drills and to "coach without coaching". That is, let the 'games' teach the techniques and offer points and ask implication questions throughout practice. For example, a player is defended by two players and tries to dribble out of trouble but can't and loses the ball. You can ask him what he could have done differently. Let him answer or if he can't, suggest he pass to an open teammate, etc. Then compliment him on something and keep the 'game' or scrimmage going. You put the kids in situations where they have to decide for themselves, not look to a coach or an adult for help or to ask if something was right or wrong. This style takes some getting used to but it seems to be working for our team so far.
I'm coming to the realization that all children should play a few years in an environment like this (having played it, basketball offers the same aforementioned opportunities for coaches and children but I don't know the philosophy currently used to teach it). This setting compliments how Martial Arts are taught, and compliments other sports and activities by really getting the children to think for themselves and to try new things without fear of repercussions (laps, sprints, etc.).
Soccer is a perfect medium because there is constant action that provides multiple decision-making opportunities for each teammate at a fast pace. Whereas football and baseball (both of which I played and enjoyed) are essentially played in short bursts with lots of down time.
Children at this age really show growth and eagerness in their learning. Providing safe, fun and competitive environments are starting blocks for their continued learning and interest in sports and Martial Arts.
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